Brokers more stressed than ever, latest research finds

08 October 2021

Brokers are under more pressure than ever, according to Ecclesiastical’s latest Broker Wellbeing Survey.

Pile of paperwork on a desk in an office

The research1, published ahead of World Mental Health Day, found the number of brokers suffering a mental health issue linked to work is at its highest level since the industry survey launched three years ago.

In 2020 over half (57%) of brokers had experienced a mental health issue in the previous 12 months but this has increased to over two-thirds of all brokers (68%). Stress (61%), anxiety (41%) and feeling overwhelmed (36%) are the leading mental health issues, with one in seven brokers (14%) also suffering from depression.

Stress is at record levels. The Wellbeing Survey tracks stress levels by asking brokers to rate their stress from 1-10. In the past 12 months, the average rating has risen from 5.27 to 5.42, the highest since the survey began.

Average stress levels were higher at national broker firms, while the survey also showed a correlation between stress and age with 18-35 year olds reporting lower stress levels than brokers aged 46 to 55. One of the starkest findings is that female brokers are more stressed than their male counterparts, with an average score of 6.33.

Causes of stress

Heavy workloads (78%), customer demands (49%) dealing with regulation (45%), and pressure to hit targets (41%) are the biggest contributors to stress, the survey found.

Nearly a third of brokers (29%) also cited concerns about COVID as a major source of stress for them. The survey found most brokers (56%) are now mainly working in the office, with one in five (21%) working flexibly between home and the office and 23% mainly working from home.

Managing stress

Brokers are more confident at recognising the signs of poor mental health in themselves, with 92% of brokers quite or very confident, up from previous years. The same percentage of brokers also feel that they have the tools to deal with stress.

They are also taking less time off with just 4% of brokers who had experienced mental health issues taking time off work to manage their issues in the past 12 months.

However, in a worrying trend less than half of brokers (44%) feel able to report their mental health issues. This figure has declined steeply from 74% in 2019 and 56% last year.

While 77% of brokers say their organisation is supportive of people with mental health issues, only 43% feel comfortable talking to their manager, suggesting there are barriers at management level.

Positive action

The good news is that nearly three quarters of brokers have introduced wellbeing initiatives in the workplace to support their people. In fact, a third of brokers said the pandemic has improved their employer’s approach to wellbeing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, flexible working is the most popular wellbeing initiative (45%). This was followed by confidential helplines (34%), counselling support (28%), mental health awareness training for staff (28%) and managers (25%) and mindfulness techniques (20%). One in ten broker firms has introduced yoga to support colleagues with mental health.

In a positive sign for the industry, awareness of mental health issues is at its highest level, with an average score of 5.84 out of ten, up from 5.81 last year and 5.7 in 2019. However, understanding of mental health still lags behind and has fallen from last year’s 5.36 to 5.13.

Supporting brokers

This year Ecclesiastical has teamed up with Mental Health in Business (MHIB) to host a series of webinars to support brokers with managing stress and building resilience. The specialist insurer is also offering mental health first aid training to brokers. The Ecclesiastical Insurance management team are also taking part in the training to be able to better support their teams.

Adrian Saunders, Commercial Director at Ecclesiastical, said: “This is the third annual Broker Wellbeing Survey and our research has found that brokers are under pressure more than ever. Heavy workloads and increasing demands from customers, along with the lingering impacts of the pandemic, are contributing to record stress and anxiety levels. Worryingly brokers feel less able to report their concerns to their employers, with just two in five feeling comfortable talking to their manager, and this is something that firms need to address promptly.

“More positively awareness of mental health is improving and firms are introducing a range of wellbeing initiatives. At Ecclesiastical, we’re committed to supporting our brokers and contributing to the greater good of society, and so we’ve teamed up with Mental Health in Business to provide support and guidance on how to best manage stress and build resilience.”

1 FWD carried out research among 200 brokers Aug – Sep 2021